View Full Version : Lacey Act

Pete Howlett
06-24-2010, 08:11 PM
I've just learned about the Lacey Act (http://guitar.suite101.com/article.cfm/what-musicians-need-to-know-about-the-lacey-act)and the prospect of me exporting to the US is now very doubtful. It also applies to companies exporting out of the US as Europe gears up to stepping in line. I'm not sure how this will impact on my business. However, I suspect it will open more doors than it will close since American manufacturers of high end instruments will find the European market slowly closing.

Not only is the Lacey Act starting to control tonewoods and their provenance. Food and Fisheries/Flora and Fauna guys (not sure the US name) are now putting the squeeze on shell. It is unlikely that in the near future, anyone will be able to export/import inlaid work (and it looks like reclaimed shell products like Ablam are going to be included). I understand from the Martin warranty guy here in the UK that very soon, this seminal company will no longer send guitars to the UK with pearl dots! It's already stopped exporting them with Brazilian Rosewood headplate veneers! Perhaps the time is coming sooner than later that outside of hawaii, we are going to have to offer and justify sustainable local woods for ukulele...

As well as an era of austerity it seems we are also gearing up for a century of de-globalization.

Anyone out there know more than this or different please post. I'm not worried - some otheres might be tho....

06-25-2010, 04:12 AM
For the most part, items listed under Appendix 1 of the CITES treaty are prohibited from trade or at least very tightly controlled. Includes items like ivory, tortoise and other endangered or exploited species. Appendix II items are allowed for trade but there are some requirements for the exporter to meet. You have to understand that the exporter and the importer are not necessarily the same person. Under the current rules, you only have to have export documents or re-export documents. There are no import documents. So, the company in Bolivia has to prove to the US customs that their batch of rosewood that they sold to Martin was sustainably harvested and meets Appendix II criteria. Martin doesn't have to "certify" it unless they decide to "re-export" it to the UK or some other country. This is when they have to provide the documentation that their Bolivian dealer supplied to the US when it came into the country.

The addition of pearl to the list really doesn't change the game to much except that it now requires documentation that it hadn't required before. Actually, pearl should be the least of anyone's concerns. Abalone will be a much bigger deal because only certain abalones from Africa are on the list, so you don't have to have any paperwork unless it comes from Africa. The big deal is that the illegal trade of African abalone to Vietnam and Thailand is huge.

As I understand it, the newest revision of the Lacey Act simply allows for stricter enforcement and prosecution. Its just going to require builders to jump through more hoops and its up to them whether they want to do it or not. I do believe rough lumber is treated differently than finished goods made with that same lumber, so it may make sense for Martin to move their manufacturing to the country of origin.

06-25-2010, 05:14 AM
I'll talk to my shipper about it, too, as we've had run-ins with Customs about the boxes we ship our stone sculptures in.
At one point, they took the battening off of the box and sent it back to us!

I think our guys know all the paperwork etc and might be able to point you in the right direction.
It may just be a matter of filling out a form and sending it with the documentation for the instrument, like the CITES stuff. (We've been lucky enough to find a legal, CITES approved, elephant conservation program in Zimbabwe (NOT affiliated with the ZANU-PF Government, of course!) that has allowed us to bring in a couple of pieces of ivory for collectors, all of which from animals that have died of natural causes.

Pete Howlett
06-25-2010, 07:49 AM
So what is your experience Andrew? My friend sent his client a $10,000 guitar at Christmas; because of the description on the waybill it was seized and burnt!

This is not a simple question answered by a superficial interpretation of CITES. Most small builders acquire materials by private sale and can't get provenance; provenance asks that the requirement reaches right back to the source. Sometimes, the material comes through a chain of supply for which documentation is required at each stage. To get a guitar with back sides and neck made from mahogany you would need individual paperwork for each piece, not for the guitar only but each piece. There is from this, a cost involved. Yes it would be great if we had legal departments dealing with this. Small builders like myself don't and we just don't have the resources to deal with the hassle involved.

Whatever you say, my personal experience and that of Dave King who is the warranty man for Martin in the UK suggests strongly that the open import and export of instruments between the UK and North America will soon dwindle because an unreasonable and completely insane group of lobbyists in the US is making the musical instrument making industry, with no exceptions pay a high price, higher than most. ...

06-25-2010, 10:08 AM
I have a bit of experience in the importing business. I used to bring in a fair amount of products from overseas in the 90's but simply quit doing it because of the growing hassle. I quit importing after 911 in which a container sat for three and a half months while customs inspected anything and everything. I have only brought in one container since that time, from India, and it required of all things paperwork confirming it had been fumigated. I have since switched to sourcing it through larger importers that don't seem to get hassled as much as those that only import small quantities or fewer shipments. To be clear, I have not imported any instrument related woods but have exported several instruments to the UK, CA, MX, AU and NZ with absolutely no hassle. In fact, absolutely no paperwork except for the online declaration page and a copy of the invoice. My last shipment being about a month ago, and I will be shipping a koa and mahogany instrument to AU in about two months. For my day job, instrument building is a part time gig, I ship to the UK and Asia daily via a number of private carriers. I don't ship much of anything that appears on the first two Appendixes of CITES, however all of my wood skids are heat treated and certified, but they are physically marked as such so there isn't any additional paperwork required there. That is my experience.

I don’t deny that importing instruments to the US is going to be more difficult in the future. I believe that the US customs has failed to enforce the laws that have been on the books for decades, unlike other EU countries, and that the amendment to the Lacey Act simply brings the enforcement to the forefront. If anything, the US just caught up with the rest of the world. Technically, the Lacey act is a US law that originally addressed the trade of illegal US resources across state lines. I don’t think it recognized species on the CITES list until 1980. I could be wrong on the dates as the US did recognize the issue with rosewood in the 1960’s. The Lacey Act combined with CITES is a very difficult thing to navigate and the best we can do is ask questions and hope we did it right. I don’t know what to say about your friend’s guitar but as I mentioned earlier, I have shipped instruments made from exotic woods to a number of countries with absolutely no problems using just the harmonized tariff page and a copy of the invoice. I’m sure you have shipped more instruments than me. Have you had any confiscated? My point is that there has to be more to your friend’s story, and just throwing out these extreme examples without any details seems to be fear mongering.

My only point about Martin is that it may be easier to import those items directly to Europe instead or re-exporting them to Europe.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
06-25-2010, 10:18 AM
I have a $5,000 commission that i'm about to begin that is slated to go to London. Lots of inlay. I may be rethinking it now. Time to do some more homework. BTW, the CITES appendices all appear to be written in Latin. This issue is more confusing that the US tax system.

Pete Howlett
06-25-2010, 10:26 AM
Thing is it's not Andrew. Customs are wising up and Martin is very nervous. It can only be a matter of time before all countries start to get infected by the paranoia that has been the fall out from 911. Spectacularly awful as 911 was, the UK had lived with terrorism on a daily basis for close on the 30 years - indiscriminate Irish thuggery that struck the lives of many, many innocent people. That campaign was kept alive by Irish American donations and we didn't close the doors and re-trench like the US did. however hideous a crime against humanity 911 was the fall-out from it has been much much worse, such that we have degenerated to this.

When I lived in the US a common them in the area of Ohio where I lived was 'We don't care what Clinton did, he made times good for us so what the heck.' The lack of moral consensus revolved around self gratification and how much money we had in our pockets. However. i was very much concerned about the every man for himself attitude that pervaded my circle of acquaintances. 911 caused many Americans to re-think, some might say overthink. Here in the UK a lapdog government responded to that by saying 'Yes Sir, No Sir' to anything the President said , so much so we are now embroiled to our billion dollar deficit necks in a war that is taking a life a day so unnecessarily. Lacey Act - it'll soon be an adopted policy everywhere bar China who are now so powerful that they can consume every last stick of wood on the planet and do you know why? Good old Chairman Mao decided to cut down 85% of China's forests to fuel the industrial revolution...

And now we buy ukuleles from them... ukuleles made from wood raped from the world's most endangered forests. I hope CITES screws the lid down so far they wont be able to step forward an inch without having to truly pay for the way they are exploiting the resources of the world...

Boy, do I feel a whole lot better now! :)

06-25-2010, 11:12 AM
I'm not even going to think about getting into a conversation about politics.

However, I will post a couple facts about the Lacey act and importing products into the US. Sorry Chuck, but it wont help you in your shipment to the UK.

Here is the APHIS website that explains the Lacey Act as it pertains to musical instruments. http://www.livingstonintl.com/news_print.aspx?newsId=1886&locale=en

Here is the declaration form. http://www.livingstonintl.com/RTEContent/Document/Importer%20Exporter/APHIS-PPQ505declarationform.pdf

Note that it doesn't require every single hand that came in contact in the supply chain and if you don't know the species or where it came from then simply put in what you think it is and where it may have come from.

06-25-2010, 11:32 AM
The Lacey Act went into effect in 2008, but has only recently been implemented. As far as the ukulele world is concerned, the main focus seems to be on illegal logging of threatened species from a few key places such as the Amazon, Madagascar, Papau/New Guinea and maybe a few other places. Some of the rosewood species are becoming a concern.
The main thing they want to know is the wood's country of origin.

06-25-2010, 11:39 AM
Slightly offtopic: If you would use older wood (eg from old furniture) for building ukes, how could you ever prove how it was harvested? This could become quite a real scenario if fresh supplies of wood run out.

Pete Howlett
06-25-2010, 11:40 AM
Mike - Abalone and Pearl? You just wait. It's not just wood you know...

At least I had an absolutely brilliant day in the workshop with an extreme build that went perfect. I'll shoot some video tomorrow of Koy and his indigenous wood ukulele: yew body, sycamore neck, laburnum fingerboard and bridge, silver dots... I fall down on the nut and saddle though :)

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
06-25-2010, 12:28 PM
Mike - Abalone and Pearl? You just wait. It's not just wood you know...

Apparently white MOP has gotten confused for white abalone----even paua. The custom agents are an authority unto themselves. There word is final and the fines are healthy. My stuff has been hung up in various European countries for up to two months for various and unknown reasons. One recent customer of mine had to drive from the south of France to Paris to retrieve his uke. It's just not worth it to ship overseas anymore. Gruhn Guitars stopped the practice some time ago.

Dave Higham
06-25-2010, 01:53 PM
This whole subject is getting ridiculous (worthy of ridicule). The Martin 1833 shop will not sell abalone or MOP dots internationally. Nor will they sell kits that include these dots internationally. But they will quite happily sell celluloid imitation tortoise binding (nicer and cheaper than anyone else's) which is covered by the Hazmat regulations. I know 'cos I just bought some more.

Stewmac will sell me a guitar or ukulele kit with mahogany back and sides but they won't sell me a set of Hondo mahogany back and sides. They'll sell me a pre-shaped mahogany neck but not a neck blank (in mahogany or 'Spanish cedar'!)

I suppose I could find another hobby.

06-25-2010, 03:27 PM
Slightly offtopic: If you would use older wood (eg from old furniture) for building ukes, how could you ever prove how it was harvested? This could become quite a real scenario if fresh supplies of wood run out.

Actually, that is very valid and on topic. If you were to import it to the US then you'd fill out the suspected species genus and where it may have come from on the US form, but don't put rosewood from Canada even though thats where you bought the table. If you were to export it then you'd need to abide by the Lacey Act, CITES and whatever permitting the destination country requires.

Pete Howlett
06-25-2010, 07:25 PM
You can get mahogany sets in the UK Dave? I'm going to look at the 1833 shop - never considered it as a source of anything.

06-26-2010, 07:05 AM
Slightly offtopic: If you would use older wood (eg from old furniture) for building ukes, how could you ever prove how it was harvested? This could become quite a real scenario if fresh supplies of wood run out.

The form for the Lacey act has a column for "% of recycled material", so I presume that would apply to old furniture made into ukes.